Processing My Fiction – Are the Number of Story Words the New Page Number?

Dirty Sixth Street, Austin med
A light crime mystery.
7864 story words.


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Processing My Fiction – Are the Number of Story Words the New Page Number?

Has digital and easy to include extras and bonus material replaced the value of knowing how many pages are in a selection?


Pictured Left : “Dirty Sixth Street, Austin

Short story set Austin Texas.

7,864 story words.


“the intent of this blog is to incrementally build a body of thought that works toward integrating various topics, yoga, fitness, and the arts – it’s a process…”



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Processing My Fiction

Are the Number of Story Words the New Page Number?


Categories : FictionAuthor Bio Info & UpdatesPoetry


Word Count, Story Words, Count

For Fiction not Poetry

Recently, this past week in fact, I went into my fiction description pages on Amazon and added the story’s word count.

Not a big deal, other than going into my book files and highlighting the story section of the book, then going to my Author Central page and editing the description pages of all my stories: novels, novellas, and short stories.

I didn’t do this with my poetry books.  And the reason why leads to the reason for adding the story word counts.

In one case, my fiction, it helps identify the length and type of story; and in the latter, in my poetry at least, which tends to run a page or so at most, the word count is largely irrelevant.

Poetry, unless indicated, is expected to be smaller tighter sharper.  So the length expectation is pre-set.

From flash fiction to sagas too big to hold in two hands if all the content is in one physical book, length, well, varies. 😉

And readers, some more than others, want to know what they’re getting into.

This becomes even more crucial if one is listening to a book, and then, even a poetry book lists the listening time, the time it takes to take in the content.  As, unlike reading, electronically or physically, one is no longer in control of the time it takes to scan or absorb the material.

An example of mine is Alexa Rubinov’s captivating poetic renditions of “Family Poems.”

Family Poems, narrated by Alexa Rubinov
Family Poems, narrated by Alexa Rubinov


Another poetry example, available soon, is “101 Sports Poems” narrated by Adam Meggs, promises to be a sports fan and sports broadcast lover’s perfect rendition of many of our nation’s favored sports past times.

101 Sports Poems - Original Poetry

Again, in poetry, the word count and page number importance is minimal.  The poem number, and the listening time, will be much more of interest.


Reasons Why Story Words Number is Needed in Fiction

  • What seems important, to some people, is a reasonable expectation of content length.
    • How long will this take me to read?
    • Will this hold me occupied, or just hold me up in the time I have / want?
    • Does the price justify or enhance the value of the story’s length?
  • Some readers have experiential expectations that fiction lengths provide particular enjoyments.
    • Long reads have the potential to take one away for an extended time.
    • Short reads can be enjoyed quickly, in lines, transit, briefly.
    • Middle reads promise a little of both of the above.

In a physical copy, the actual book or booklet, or the product’s page length description, provides fairly reasonable assurance of the story’s length.

Rarely is “a lot” of back matter included in hard copies, paper or hard back.


Reasons Page Counts Matter Less Digitally

Digitally, this is not the case.

  • Quoted length of pages usually includes material beyond the story.
  • Font size distorts the number of page flips that occur, and even the sense of, if the story is “thick” or moving fast.
  • Added material can’t be felt via the heft of the eReader.
  • And added material doesn’t add to the customer’s cost, though it does, for the author, in terms of delivery cost; though, in my own experience, very minimally unless a lot of images are used.

Story word length, as our society becomes more and more accustomed to ereaders, will mean more in terms of reader expectations.

And if one is contemplating or wanting to listen to something in audio book format, story word count, which translates to an actual set amount of time, in terms of listening, is even more important.

For example, my next audio book, currently in review for availability, is “The Old American Artist,” narrated by Marcus Anderson, with a sweet seasoned voice reminiscent, my wife says, and I agree 😉 of Morgan Freeman.

Old American Artist Cover

It’s 36,104 story words, and is four hours listening length.

Here, the narration characterization of a young senior, both looking back at his life, and preparing for a major art event that evening, is carried appropriately with nicely nuanced slower pacing where appropriate.

Page numbers wouldn’t help here.  The number of story words help.  Listening time, though, is exact.


Fiction Example, Digitally & in AudioBook

I have a short story collection, “Texas Shorts Vol 1“, with a variety of story lengths.

I’ve come to the conclusion story length, in terms of the number of story words, is so important, I’ve just added that info, about each separate story, in this books’ product description.  I’ve placed it on the ebook page, and need to get it on the audio book’s page when it becomes available (probably after mid-November).

Texas Shorts Vol 1 med

“The Concert” is 2,584 story words long.  “The Slumber Party” is 7,909 story words, three times longer.

Both are short stories.  One will take a listener 3 times as long to hear.

Important, if one wants to take in the latter story in one sitting.  Or enjoy the former and know there might be “x” amt of time left for other things.

Knowing that they are both “short stories” helps.  If comparing to a novel.  But not within themselves as short stories.

Though it could be argued that “The Slumber Party” is a novelette (love that name!) and not a short story, the fact that another short in the collection, “At the Beach” is a short at 6,991, means very little, in terms of the amount of invested time needed.

The categories short story or novelette don’t help enough here.  Story word count does.

Drew Sobey, in process right now of narrating “Texas Shorts Vol 1” clocks in at a very engaging 44 minutes for “At the Beach” and 54 minutes for “The Slumber Party.”  In contrast, “The Concert,” the first of the series of shorts, comes in at a sprightly 18 minutes, 1/3 the listening length of “The Slumber Party.”

In audio, time specifically says what the length is.

Electronically read, story word count helps.

Digitally, Story Words works for me. 😉


Standard Size Fiction Lengths, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a very nice simple layout of generally accepted name lengths for fiction works.

Even here, with accurate acknowledged lengths for the various named story lengths, the difference between a low count for a novella, 17,500, and one at the higher end, at 40,000, is big!  And meaningful, especially if one is planning time to fit the reading in, or to know if there is time!


“Slumming in Paris,” the Series

I have a novella/novelette length series, “Slumming in Paris” (3 now available, 2 in final edit, 3 ready for final read-through, and 2 outlined – for a total of 10) that I realized, much as it would have been “neat” to say I had a 200,000 story word count book, I much preferred presenting it in novella size chunks.

Slumming in Paris, Part One

It’s been my preferred reading size and production size for decades, and forcing myself to “do” a big book, finally just didn’t make sense creatively.


Last Word – Modern Story Mediums

Besides, in an age where mini-series on BBCAmercia and regular programming now connect stories week to week, sitting down to watch a ten hour production (other than one of those slam weekend viewings being touted more as a group party than intent focused viewing – and I could be wrong about this!) not only doesn’t appeal to me, but isn’t necessary.  And many of the larger works that are available in print, are often composed of “books” with many many chapters, ie, breaks. 😉

So who knows, one day, when my growing novella series is seemingly done, it’ll become a “big” book. 🙂

Best wishes everyone, maybe we are entering a new golden age of stories!



ps – Separate blog posts and audio samples of each the titles available in this article will begin to be posted about mid-November!


Other Posts You May Like

Poetry in Fiction, Samples – Rendezvous, at Place Saint-Michel

Processing My Fiction : Referencing Other Stories Within Your Story, An Example

Defining Your Fiction : Short Story, Novella, Novel, & More, a Humorous Look


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